How to Know If Someone Is Faking Depression

Depression: We’re Not Faking It (But It Sometimes Feels That Way)

How to Know If Someone Is Faking Depression

Sometimes, we worry that we are faking or making up our depression. It doesn’t matter how many depression symptoms we have. It doesn’t matter how many professionals have told us we’re ill. And it doesn’t matter how many depression treatments we have been through. We still have times when we feel as though we are faking it.

We Worry That We’re Attention Seeking

Often we worry that we’re making up symptoms for attention. The phrase ‘attention seeking’ gets thrown around a lot in the media and elsewhere. We second guess ourselves all the time. We don’t know if we’re actually feeling a certain way, or if we just want people to notice us.

But we are not making it up for attention. People don’t usually attention seek, they usually care seek. We deserve as much help as we need to start feeling better.

We Laugh Sometimes So We Must be Okay

Every now and again we smile, we laugh, we have an hour or two of ‘okay’. We are more okay around certain friends. We have a particular TV programme that makes us laugh. Or we have a three-year-old in our life who makes us smile. We think that these things mean we can’t possibly have depression. We must be making our low-mood symptoms up.

The occasional smile or laugh do not mean that we are making our depression symptoms up. People with depression can still smile. A few moments of ‘okay’ do not cancel out all of the moments of not-so-okay. We are not faking depression.

Other People Have It Worse

We think we can’t possibly have depression because other people have it worse than we do. So we must be faking it or making it up.

Saying we can’t be low because others have it worse is saying we can’t ever be happy because other people have it better. It doesn’t make sense. Everyone’s situation is different. Depression doesn’t discriminate according to how ‘lucky’ we are or how ‘good’ we’ve got things. People from all walks of life have depression. Whatever our situation, we’re not making it up.

We’re Worry That We’re Using Depression As An Excuse

We often think that we don’t have depression, we’re just faking it as an excuse not to do things. It’s an excuse for failing our exams.  An excuse for avoiding our families.  An excuse for snapping at our kids.

But we are not using depression as an excuse. We don’t want these things to happen. We want to pass our exams, spend time with our families and do fun stuff with our kids. Depression isn’t something we make up as an excuse not to do things, it’s an illness.

Maybe We’re Just…

We wonder if we’re not depressed and actually maybe we’re just antisocial, lazy, broken, stupid, ungrateful, or something else.

We tell ourselves that the reason we can’t get bed isn’t depression, it’s laziness. The reason we struggle to see our friends and family isn’t depression, it’s because we’re antisocial.

The reason we struggle to concentrate on anything isn’t depression, it’s because we’re stupid.

We are none of these things. Depression is an illness and it can affect every single aspect of our lives.

We Think We Don’t Deserve Help

If we aren’t ill, then we can’t get better. We think we don’t deserve help. We’re just this and we will always be this way.

Depression loves to feed us these lies, because it feeds into hopelessness. But depression is wrong. We have an illness that isn’t our fault, and we deserve as much help and support as we need to enable us to recover.

We Should Just…

Constantly, our heads are full with ‘should justs’. We ‘should just’ shower every day and then we would be fine. We ‘should just’ socialise more and we’d feel better. And we ‘should just’ clean our house and everything would be fixed. We are so hard on ourselves. We keep telling ourselves that we’re making it all up and need to sort ourselves out.

But we don’t deserve this harshness. We deserve care, kindness and support. There is nothing we ‘should just’ do. Every day we are doing our best to keep going despite depression trying to knock us back. Our best is all that anyone can ask for.

We’re not Faking It – And We Deserve Support

If we think that we are struggling with depression, we need to speak to our GP. We are not faking it or making it up. We’re not choosing to feel this way. We deserve help and support. We need to try and be kind to ourselves.

Please help us to help others and share this post, you never know who might need it.


Faking Depression (A guide to coping)

How to Know If Someone Is Faking Depression

This blog post will explore the concept of faking depression, the two reasons people fake depression, namely, malingering and factitious disorder. We will then outline several indications of somebody faking depression and what you can do to help. Finally, we will see how it sometimes is genuinely depression.  

After you’ve enjoyed the Faking Depression mentioned below, I would recommend you to take a look at ”Depression or attention seeking?” too.

Faking Depressiono

Diagnosing a patient with depression or any mental health condition predominantly lies in how they describe their symptoms. There is indeed clinical judgment along with standardized tests, therapist notes, medical records, and clinical interviews that give more insight into the patient’s condition as a means of corroborating their descriptions.

Commonly, people may fake depression because of malingering or as a symptom of a more severe disorder known as a factitious disorder (aka Munchausen Syndrome). People may mimic depressive symptoms to get legal issues or claim financial benefits. But depression isn’t a made-up disease.

Let us now understand these conditions in more detail. 


Malingering is when a patient feels that they can gain something (aka secondary gains) because of a condition. For instance, they might have a monetary incentive or want to escape specific duties.

Recognition of malingering is challenging, and hence, mental health professionals might utilize a test Structured Interview of Reported Symptoms (SIRS) and Structured Inventory of Malingered Symptomatology (SIMS). 

Additionally, personality tests Millon Clinical Multiaxial Inventory-III (MCMI-III) and Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory-2 (MMPI-2) can help identify malingering. 


Although there are no detailed symptoms to recognize malingering, there are specific things you can look out for that indicate a patient may be malingering. These signs include:

  • Inconsistent symptoms;
  • The onset of symptoms overlap with unfortunate occurrences lawful concerns, army duty, or jury service;
  • A lack of cooperation with recommendations from healthcare professionals; 
  • Differences in descriptions across sources; and
  • Exaggeration of symptoms when compared to examined results.  


There are no physical causes involved in malingering. Typically, malingering stems from an individual’s urge to receive an incentive or escape an unpleasant situation. However, it can also occur as a symptom of a personality disorder an antisocial personality disorder. 

The exact frequency of this disorder’s occurrence is challenging to assess. With that said, it usually occurs in particular situations legal places or clinical settings where there is a monetary incentive or an opportunity to escape disciplinary actions. 

Factitious Disorder

Factitious disorder is when a person fakes an illness to reap psychological “rewards” or primary gains that come with being sick, attention and care.

Indications that Someone is Faking Depression

  • Self-harm
  • Specific situations
  • Passive aggressiveness
  • Sympathy
  • Drama or exaggeration
  • Blame game
  • Helplessness 


When somebody fakes depression, they tend to turn toward self-harm. However, when you examine the individual’s injuries, they are ly to be superficial scratches. It is indicative of primary or secondary gains, such as financial incentives or psychological rewards attention. 

Specific situations

While faking depression, the individual might be “depressed” in specific situations or about particular things. They may be happy for a while and suddenly turn depressed to show that they have a condition. 


Be on the lookout for passive-aggressiveness, as this tendency is typically seen in people who actively seek attention. Therefore, people who are faking depression tend to display passive-aggressiveness.


Most of the people who fake depression 

is not fully aware of how depression manifests or what the condition means in its entirety. Instead, they tend to equate depression with sympathy and associated attention. They are only interested in incentives, escapism, and psychological gains that come with depression. 

Drama or exaggeration

When people are genuinely depressed, they tend to be reserved and socially withdrawn. They may seem all smiles and they are happy, but they are generally not dramatic. People who fake depression, on the other hand, are after compensations and attention 

Blame game

They tend to blame others for their condition if probed into their depression. People who are genuinely suffering from depression are more ly to stay silent or not talk back. Most people with depression tend to feel guilty and blame themselves for unpleasant occurrences and give credit to external factors for pleasant ones. 

What Can You Do?

Sometimes, we may mistake people who are genuinely suffering from a condition depression to be feigning it merely because they are smiling or seem cheerful outwardly. Such external cues can be misleading, and we may assume that they are not depressed.

Remember that you are only observing isolated events. The chief determinant of depression is the individual’s overall quality of life. You may not be able to notice symptoms sleep difficulties, a lack of motivation to perform fundamental activities, and trouble focusing on tasks. 

Although they may be faking illness, keep in mind that the manifestations of depression can in itself be challenging to recognize. A majority of the symptoms are psychological. Therefore, even if they seem normal, it is ly that they have merely learned to look okay in public when they are battling difficulties on the inside. 

A majority of them do suffer from a disabling condition. Therefore, instead of doubting these individuals, encourage them to seek professional help. Allow the mental health professional to understand their problems. 

Sometimes It Is Actual Depression

Many people suffering from depression tend to have moments where they doubt the genuineness of their condition. They may begin feeling they are faking their illness regardless of the symptoms and interventions. Here are some of the things you might feel when you second-guess the reality of your difficulty and corresponding suggestions.  

  • Seeking attention
  • Comparisons 
  • Laughing implies being okay
  • “I should…”
  • Undeserving of help
  • Depression as an excuse 

Seeking attention

You might think that you are using the condition to seek attention, and it is understandable as the media and other sources throw the words “attention-seeking” around carelessly. So, you might pick up on such happenings, consciously or otherwise, and start believing it. 

However, remind yourself that you are not doing it for attention. Typically, you are seeking care, and that is okay. You need help to begin your healing process. 


You start denying yourself the help you need and deserve by telling yourself that your issues are trivial in comparison to those of others. So, you start convincing yourself that you are not ill. 

Doing this is analogous to denying yourself happiness because there are people who are doing better. Remember that people are different and deal with different environments. Therefore, naturally, everybody has various issues; one is not better or worse than the other. Depression does not differentiate. It afflicts young and old, the rich and poor a.  

Laughing implies being okay

Sometimes you might find yourself laughing or smiling or feeling alright. Specific people or situations might make you feel better, so you automatically assume that you cannot have depression if you feel okay at those times. 

It is flawed thinking, as an infrequent laugh or two does not indicate feigning depression. Depressed people have bad days and good days. The good days do not negate the bad ones. It no way conveys a lack of illness, or worse, faking one.  

“I should…”

You might frequently have thoughts , “I should just” shower, get bed, eat, clean, and engage in other activities. There may be feelings of faking depression and that you merely need to get yourself together.  

Learn self-compassion. Understand that you do not deserve such harshness and self-criticism. Remember that you require support, care, and compassion from others and yourself. You are doing your best to keep moving, which is everything that you and others can ask of yourself.  

Undeserving of help

You might think that because you are not genuinely sick, you do not deserve support and help. 

Depression in itself can make you feel unworthy and undeserving of kindness and care. A symptom of depression is feelings of hopelessness. You are not to blame for your condition, and you deserve all the love, help, and care that you need and can get to heal. 

Depression as an excuse 

You might feel that you are not actually depressed and are faking it to get responsibilities or blame for some action. Additionally, you might think that you are lazy, asocial, an emotional burden, or broken. 

You start believing that you are not socially withdrawn but simply asocial; you do not engage in activities because you are lazy; you do not have trouble concentrating but merely dumb.  

You are not using depression to pardon yourself from something. Depression is a debilitating condition and not something you are faking. 

The bottom line is that if you think you are suffering from depression, reach out to your physician or a mental health professional at once. You are worthy and deserve appropriate care. Remember to be compassionate and kind to yourself. 

Side Note: I have tried and tested various products and services to help with my anxiety and depression. See my top recommendations here, as well as a full list of all products and services our team has tested for various mental health conditions and general wellness.


In this blog post, we explored the concept of faking depression. We understood the reasons and indications of faking depression. We also learned how to help someone who feigns the illness while gaining insights into actual depression being misconstrued as feigning it. 

If you’ve enjoyed the Faking depression mentioned above, I would recommend you to take a look at Why is depression trending? too.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs): Faking Depression

There are several ways to tell if somebody is faking a psychological condition. While feigning mental illnesses, people tend to:

Exaggerate their symptomsEngage in self-harm albeit superficially;Fake medical records and history;Partake in malingering; and 

Fabricate medical evaluations 


Top Signs That Someone Is Faking Depression

How to Know If Someone Is Faking Depression

For decades, if not centuries, people with depression were dismissed as not having a serious problem when, in fact, depression is serious indeed. So…

We want to be cautious when we talk about faking depression

But if you’re wondering how to tell if someone is faking depression, then it’s probably because you have some concerns about someone in your life. Those concerns are certainly valid.

Is It Possible to Fake Depression?

Depression is a common condition that ranges in severity. Moreover, there are many different types of depression. Since so many people deal with it, and there is a wealth of information about the condition, it’s certainly possible to understand the illness well enough to fake it.

Why People Fake Depression

Depression is a terrible mental health condition. Living with depression is an awful experience. So why would anyone fake depression?

There are three key reasons why people might fake depression:

  1. In order to gain a reward of some type (for example, disability insurance payments)
  2. With the hopes of avoiding a negative consequence (for example, a jail sentence)
  3. As a symptom of another mental health disorder

In other words, many people who fake depression, do so because they want something: either a benefit or to avoid a negative situation. But there are also people with legitimate mental health issues who fake depression.

There are a few mental health issues that can look a lot faking depression. And some in which faking depression is a symptom. For example:

  • Munchausen Syndrome, known better today as Factitious Disorder, in which a person regularly complains of symptoms they don’t have. Alternatively, they may induce such symptoms in themselves.
  • Somatic Symptom Disorder, in which the person reacts strongly to perceived or real issues.
  • Anti-social Personality Disorder, in which the individual might fake depression, often to get consequences for criminal behavior.

Sometimes people who fake depression do so because they have underlying needs that they aren’t sure how to get addressed any other way. They may be insecure or jealous, for example. This leads to attention-seeking in the form of depression. While it’s not the best way to get attention, it is still a cry for help of some kind.

The Main Symptoms of Depression

Therefore, if you’re wondering how to tell if someone is faking depression, it’s helpful to know the main symptoms of depression to look for.

There are two main things to look for:

  1. Persistent feelings of sadness
  2. Loss of interest in people and activities

But there are a host of other symptoms as well:

  • Changes in eating
  • Difficulty focusing/concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Guilt and/or shame, often without any reason
  • Hopelessness
  • Hypersomnia and/or insomnia
  • Indecision
  • Irritability
  • Pessimism
  • Physical pain including headaches and stomach issues
  • Talking about death and/or suicide
  • Trouble remembering things
  • Worthlessness

When these things occur more often than not, and when they begin to interfere with daily function (relationships, work, school, etc.) then depression is ly.

If someone is only “depressed” about certain things but then gets easily happy again, it might be a sign of faking depression.

Hiding Depression is Normal

It’s important to recognize that hiding depression is a normal part of the condition. 

People with depression don’t go around looking miserable at all hours of the day. In fact, people with high-functioning depression may rarely exhibit external depression symptoms.

Therefore, you shouldn’t assume that someone is faking depression just because they don’t “look depressed.”

Figuring out how to tell if a person is faking depression isn’t easy. But if someone creates a lot of drama, draws attention to their depression symptoms, and seems to get rewards from these actions, then they might be faking depression.

Should I Confront Someone About Faking Depression?

People who fake depression are often accused of malingering. This has come to have a terrible connotation because in the history of mental health, people were accused of malingering when they had real mental health issues. This can lead to stigma that we don’t want to perpetuate.

Therefore, you might want to think carefully about how to approach someone you believe is faking depression. You can certainly approach them, but do so with kindness and an open mind. Be willing to listen and hear what’s going on for them.

First, think of it this way: they probably have some kind of problem, right? The average person doesn’t lie about having a mental illness just to get a reward or avoid a consequence. They may or may not have depression – but it seems they have something going on. So, approach them with empathy for whatever might be the underlying issue.

And remember, whether or not they have depression, it’s important that you set your own boundaries as needed. Practice self-care. It’s not your responsibility to solve this person’s issue – whether it’s clinical depression or not. Let a mental health professional do that work.

Depression is a serious illness. And if you’re wondering about how to tell if someone is faking depression, then you’re dealing with something that’s very challenging. Don’t try to deal with this all on your own.

Our therapists can help provide diagnosis and treatment for the person you’re concerned about. And they can also help you work through the challenges you face in the situation. Contact us today for a consultation.


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